COLUMN: Today’s inaction a bet against science

By Ron Heusen

I cannot help but wonder why the global community supports expensive climate summits that continually produce ineffective promises and measures.

Durban was just another chapter in the international greenhouse-gas-reduction saga that started in 1979 when the world hosted the first World Climate Conference.

Back then, the global science community raised enough concern about carbon emissions causing greenhouse warming that the UN created the World Climate Program, which initiated the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

That panel, consisting of 2,000 climate scientists, has been producing regular reports on the state of human caused global warming and climate change ever since. It was the IPCC’s first report that led to the Framework Convention on Climate Change that led to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

That led to a long series of Conference of the Parties  meetings starting with COP-1 in Berlin in 1995. That led to COP-2 in Geneva, the UN Earth Summit in New York, the UN Conference in Germany, COP-3 in Kyoto, Japan through to our current crowning jewel, COP-17 in Durban, South Africa.

Durban pencilled an agreement to create a future agreement. Furthermore, it has allowed countries to ignore legally binding constraints on emissions and sadly, the world’s largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases, Canada, was disengaged.

Environment Minister Peter Kent was particularly vociferous in his attacks of Kyoto pre Durban, so Canada’s position came as no surprise. After all, it was Calgary’s own Stephen Harper who appointed our freshly minted Environment Minister and everyone knows of Harper’s unwavering support for oil sands expansion in Alberta.

Factor in Alberta being responsible for 40 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions combined with the fact that tar sands oil produces three times more CO2 per barrel than traditional crude oil and it all makes sense, regardless of the litany of diversionary green washing infomercials about the “new” oil sands.

To lay all the blame on politicians who reflect the will of the people is patently unfair.

Politicians go to these conferences knowing that most of the global carbon community has opted for a global warming impact, adapt and respond, wait and see approach, over tangible preventative action.

It is my belief that culturing some moral convictions about deferring climate consequences to future generations will take nothing less than a climate catastrophe, because money and lifestyle stand in the way.

Today’s inaction will be the greatest gamble this generation will roll the dice on for future generations.

By adopting a wait and adapt approach to climate change rather than taking measures to avoid it, we are betting against the climate scientists’ predictions that are vetted with very high confidence levels.

The irony does not escape me that our inaction clearly states that we don’t believe in today’s climate scientists, but we are willing to gamble that if we’re wrong, those same scientists will be able to fix the problem tomorrow.

Meanwhile, atmospheric greenhouse gases grow, the world ramps up carbon use, and talks go on.


Retired Nanaimo resident Ron Heusen writes every second week. He can be reached through the News Bulletin at editor@nanaimobulletin.com.

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